Healthcare insurance has evolved very differently than home or car insurance, with benefits typically paid for by the employer. The consumer who is ultimately paying ironically has little control and no free market exists to drive innovation, increase choices, increase quality, and reduce costs. Because employer-based care has been around for generations, we take it for granted. But what if car insurance was also paid for by the employer? It sounds ridiculous, but it is no more ridiculous than having our healthcare paid by our employers. The following is a scenario of what it might look like in an alternate reality with employer-based car insurance.
Struggling to see the rainy traffic ahead, Michelle realized that her wiper blades needed to be changed. This was not going to be easy.
She recalled last summer when she had a leaking tire. After weeks of back and forth with her insurance company they finally agree to allow for a new tire at a location that they approved. But because of her high deductible, she had to pay the entire $1800 bill out of pocket. She thought it unfair that she paid the whole cost but she was unable to choose where to get the tire replaced. And why did a tire cost so much anyway? It just didn’t make sense. In fact, each experience dealing with her car insurance had been expensive, stressful, and time consuming — and here she was again.
When she got home, she made an appointment to get the wiper blades evaluated. At the appointment, the mechanic agreed that the blades should be replaced and faxed an order. Eventually, she received a letter in response from the insurance company. As she read it, she became angry because she knew that insurance companies always denied the first request as a matter of protocol. They explained that based on the age of her wiper blades, she was not due for a replacement for another 6 months. If she really needed them now, she would have to see a wiper blade specialist, but even then, the claim might be denied.
Irritated, she thought again about switching to another company. But all companies were the same! Weeks later, Michelle took another day off work and met the wiper blade specialist. Like the mechanic before, the blade specialist agreed that the wiper blades need to be replaced. As Michelle sat in the shop, the wiper specialist argued with her insurance company until finally the pre-approval was granted! She was deeply relieved but felt bad because the specialist did not get paid for his time
on the phone. He was only paid for his 15 minute time appointment and had gone the extra mile out of the kindness of his heart.
Now she just had to choose a place and be done. It was confusing because her insurance company had negotiated different rates with each of the 3 approved car centers. The rates also varied based on her specific plan as well as other factors such as her copay rate and the deductible she had already paid that year. In fact, it was so confusing that Michelle did not know which center was actually the cheapest.
She eventually chose the auto center closest to her home and set up an appointment. The busy auto center did not seem to care much about the level of service they provided, but no bother, the new wiper blades were finally on! There had been no choice of styles or quality – just a single model that was approved by her insurance company. Her deductible had not been met, so she paid the $125 out of pocket like usual. And again, the priced seemed surprisingly high for just wiper blades.
As Michelle drove home, there was a light rain which was wiped clear by the new wiper blades. Yay! But then she saw a new warning light on the dashboard — “service engine soon”.